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Japanese knife makers have a knife design for every function in the kitchen. A Set of Japanese kitchen knives could have in excess of 10 knives, each with its own function and purpose. The santoku and the funayuki are two such Japanese design knives of similar size. So what is the difference between a santoku and a funayuki knife?
The santoku and funayuki knives are both multipurpose kitchen knives. The santoku is less agile than a funayuki but is more robust for a wider range of uses in the kitchen. The funayuki is a narrower, light blade that is agile, with a pointed tip that makes it better for fine slicing work.
In a set of Japanese knives, the santoku and the funayuki knives look very similar in size and length. However, as with most Japanese culinary knives, each is designed with a specific purpose in mind.
This means there are subtle differences in the features and characteristics of the two knives that are relevant to their intended purpose.
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Origins Of The Santoku Knife
The name santoku is in reference to the intended purpose for this type of blade. The full name of the knife is a santoku bocho.
In Japanese, “san” is the number three, and the rest of the name can be translated as virtues or uses. Thus, the santoku is a multipurpose knife that was intended for three purposes in the kitchen.
The design of the knife makes it suitable in the kitchen to cut meat, cut and chop up vegetables and cut fish. The triple use could also refer to the types of cutting methods the knife is capable of; chopping, slicing, and dicing.
The balance of the knife is centered where the tang meets the blade, which gives the knife the correct balance point for its intended uses.
The santoku is a medium-sized knife, ranging from between 5 to 8-inches in length, which is 13 to 20cm in metric. For a medium-sized knife, the blade is relatively tall and stays that way until the spine of the knife dramatically tapers down to the tip of the knife in a sheep’s foot style.
The height of the blade gives the knuckles of your knife hand clearance above a chopping board when the knife is used for chopping.
The height of the blade is also useful to rest the blade against the knuckles of your free hand when the knife is used in the fast tap-chopping style to quickly process vegetables.
The height of the blade does, however, limit the agility of the santoku for more detailed or fine knife work. The tip of the knife is quite chunky, which does not lend itself to precise tip work, as would be the case with a knife that has a less tall blade and a slimmer tip.
Due to the multipurpose nature of the santoku knife, it is the most common knife that is found in Japanese household kitchens and is normally considered the go-to knife for general kitchen and food preparation duties.
The santoku is traditionally a single beveled knife, but the western influence has led to the knife being popular in a double bevel version, even in Japan.
The single bevel version in Japan would always have the bevel on the right of the blade to cater to a righthanded person. Lefthanded people in Japan were considered to be unnatural and were often not tolerated in society.
Thus, lefthanded single bevel knives, where the bevel is on the left side of the blade, are generally only found in the west.
If you are interested in buying a high-quality Santoku knife we recommend checking out this knife made by the Yoshihiro company (Amazon link).
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Origins Of The Funayuki Knife
As we have mentioned in our comparison of the funayuki and the gyuto knives, the funayuki has its origins in Japan’s fishing community. The name literally means “on boat” and was the multi-functional knife that fishermen used aboard their boats.
The funayuki was used by fishermen to process their catch, perform in a utility knife role onboard the boat, and also process their meals while they were at sea. Thus, the knife needs to be robust enough to handle rough work but delicate enough to process food in the kitchen.
The funayuki, like the santoku, is a medium-sized knife and can be of a length between 4.7-inches and 7.6-inches or between 12cm and 19cm.
This knife looks similar in shape to a chef’s knife and is sometimes considered to be a mini-chefs knife and is used for similar functions in the kitchen.
The sharp edge of the blade is quite flat, but with a small belly to the blade, as it sweeps up to the point of the knife.
The blade of a funayuki is relatively thin to be able to process fish and is therefore not suitable for heavy-duty boning work or heavy chopping, but it works well for light chopping work.
The lightweight nature of the funayuki, the thin blade, and the tapering tip make this a much more agile knife and makes it suitable to use with delicate fine work as well as robust work.
The slight belly on the knife gives it the ability to rock on the tip of the knife, making it ideal for finely chopping herbs and softer vegetables.
The lightness and agility of the funayuki make it a popular knife for portioning a chicken carcass. It is not robust enough, however, to split a chicken carcass down the middle.
If you are interested in buying a high-quality Funayuki knife we recommend checking out this knife made by the Yoshihiro company (Amazon link).
TIP: In addition to the Santoku knife, the Funayuki knife is also often compared to the Gyuto knife. Do you know the main differences between these two knives? Find out more in the article below:
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Differences Between Santoku And Funayuki Knives
For the purposes of highlighting the differences between these two fine kitchen knives, it would be useful to give them a side-by-side comparison so that the differences between the knives are more visible.
In the table below, we have highlighted the different features and purposes that separate these two mid-sized kitchen knives.
|Knife Length||5 to 8-inches, but most commonly 7 to 8-inches||4.7 to 7.6 inches. This knife is most |
commonly in the mid-size of this range.
|Blade Profile||Tall blade with the spine of the knife |
sloping aggressively towards the tip of the knife in a sheep’s-foot design.
The tip is chunky and not agile for fine work.
The blade is not agile due to its height.
|Narrower blade with the spine and edge |
curving gently towards a sharper tip.
The tip is thinner and agile and, therefore,
suitable for delicate work.
The blade is light and agile.
|Balance||The balance is where the tang meets the |
blade to allow for fine even slicing.
|The balance is normally towards the |
first third of the blade.
|Bevel||Traditionally a single bevel but |
double bevel varieties have gained recent popularity
|Traditionally a single bevel knife. |
Western versions sometimes have double bevels.
|Purpose||Cutting meat, fish, and vegetables. |
Suitable for slicing, dicing, and chopping.
A straight blade makes rocking the
blade to chop herbs with the
heel of the blade difficult.
The tip is chunky and not agile enough for delicate work.
|Suitable for processing fish and chopping light vegetables. |
The fine, tapered tip can be used for more
delicate work and precise tip cuts.
Good for push and pull cuts and light chopping
|Handle Style||The handles on these knives can be |
western-style handles or rounded or
octagonal traditional Japanese handles.
|These knives most commonly have|
Japanese rounded or octagonal handles.
As can be seen, by the details of the characteristics of these knives, they are both considered to be multipurpose knives in the kitchen, but the santoku would probably be the more robust of the two and would be suitable for heavier duty work than the funayuki.
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Frequently Asked Questions
1. Which knife is better for beginners, the Santoku or the Funayuki?
Both knives have their advantages, but the Santoku might be a better choice for beginners due to its versatility and robustness. It’s designed for a wide range of uses in the kitchen, making it a great all-around knife for those just starting to explore Japanese cutlery.
2. Which knife is better for professional chefs?
Professional chefs might find the Funayuki more appealing due to its agility and precision. Its lightweight nature and fine, tapered tip make it suitable for delicate work. However, many chefs also appreciate the Santoku for its versatility and robustness.
3. How often should I sharpen my Santoku or Funayuki knife?
The frequency of sharpening depends on how often you use your knife and what you use it for. However, a good rule of thumb is to sharpen your knife whenever it feels dull or doesn’t cut as efficiently as it used to. Always remember to use a proper sharpening tool, like a whetstone, to maintain the quality of your knife.
4. Can I use a Santoku or Funayuki knife for heavy-duty tasks like cutting through bones?
Neither the Santoku nor the Funayuki is designed for heavy-duty tasks like cutting through bones. These knives have relatively thin blades that could chip or break when used on hard materials. A heavier knife like a Western-style chef’s knife or a Japanese Deba knife would be more suitable for such tasks.
5. What’s the main difference between a Santoku and a Funayuki knife?
While both are versatile kitchen knives, the Santoku is generally more robust and suitable for a wider range of tasks, while the Funayuki is more agile and better for fine slicing work. The Santoku has a taller blade with a sheep’s foot design, while the Funayuki has a narrower blade with a sharper tip.
6. Are there left-handed versions of Santoku and Funayuki knives?
Traditionally, these knives were made with a single bevel on the right side of the blade to cater to right-handed users. However, with Western influence, double-bevel versions have become popular, which can be used by both right-handed and left-handed people. Left-handed single-bevel knives are generally found in the West.
The santoku knife and the funayuki knife are both mid-sized knives in the range of Japanese-style kitchen knives.
Even though these knives are similar in size and are both considered to be multipurpose knives, they have varying characteristics that make them better at certain tasks than others.
Japanese household kitchens generally prefer the use of a santoku knife as a general-purpose kitchen knife over the funayuki, but the funayuki definitely has its place in a professional kitchen.
If you are an avid chef and spend a lot of time in the kitchen, it would be worth your while to have one of each of these knives, but if you had you choose only one for general purpose use, it would probably be a santoku knife.
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